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The screen says “Game Over” and it means it.
It comes as a bit of a shock – we’re not used to this sort of thing these days. In 90 per cent of modern games you don’t even see a proper Game Over screen, just a restart menu or a loading screen while the last checkpoint kicks into action. Of the remaining 10 per cent, the Game Over screen is only joking, and the game is about to offer you the chance to load your last saved game anyway. Omega Five, however, is a proper, old-school arcade shoot ‘em up. Run out of credits half way through level three, and you’re going right back to the start of the game, from whence you’ll have to blast your way through levels one and two before you even get back to the point of destruction. For those of us who were raised on Gradius, Nemesis, R-Type and Thunderforce III, this is a jarring reminder of how things used to be. For those who came into games during the PSX/PS2 era, it’s going to be a harsh history lesson.
But then the latest game on Xbox Live Arcade is a genuine throwback to those good (or bad) old days. Omega Five is a side-scrolling 2D shoot-em-up with a scattering of 3D elements, based heavily on Capcom’s Forgotten Worlds but laced with elements of Nemesis and R-Type. The screen scrolls (mostly) from left to right at a fixed pace. Enemies fly, stride or lumber (mostly) from right to left towards you, spouting ludicrous quantities of bullets, beams, mines and missiles. You dodge incoming fire and shift position using the left analogue stick on the 360 gamepad, while aiming a stream of whatever your current weapon happens to be using the right analogue stick. Work your way through the level, battle a boss and it’s on to the next one. Repeat four times and you’ve cracked the game. Up to a point, that’s all there is.
Up to a point. For a start, you won’t get very far with your default destructive capabilities. You don’t actually have a space-fighter in Omega Five. Instead, as in Forgotten Worlds (Did you find the guy? – ed.), your hero or heroine floats in space using some sort of ingenious anti-gravity harness, using an upgradable mini-gun to blast anything in their path. You can play either as Tempest, a burly alien, or Ruby, a saucy space-pirate wench. The latter cheerfully wears suspenders and a diaphanous skirt, presumably on the quite sensible basis that when you’re floating 20 feet above the ground in the middle of a galactic war, everyone below can see your knickers anyway. Plus, any men reading will know how distracting a glimpse of thong can be, which doubtless gives Ruby a crucial advantage in combat.